An Iraqi Example

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For the Guardian I try to put the story of Bush rejecting exile options for Saddam Hussein into the broader context of his administration's approach to nuclear proliferation. Rejecting the rule-based framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Bush sought another way outside the bounds of international law:

That way, known as "counterproliferation" by its advocates, was, in essence, brute force. The US would break its non-proliferation treaty commitments by building a new generation of "bunker buster" nukes, turn a blind eye to nuclear activities by friendly states, and restrain WMD acquisition by hostile states through intimidation rather than a legitimate international process. Iraq was targeted not merely on its own terms but in order that Bush might make an example out of Saddam and send a message to the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea and other states. Cutting a deal with Saddam wasn't an option.

Unfortunately, as a result of the same thinking, neither were any number of other moves that could have improved American policy. In particular, the invasion force needed to be small enough, and the reconstruction plan fast and cheap enough, that the US could credibly threaten to do it again if other countries didn't get the message.

Read the whole thing.

White House photo by Eric Draper

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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